In the days and weeks that followed, Texas officials promised to do whatever necessary to ensure it would never happen again.
READ MORE: Bald Eagles Still At Dallas’ White Rock Lake Day After Losing Nest To Strong WindsOver the past year, Texas lawmakers passed more regulations, required more inspections, and called on ERCOT and power providers to be better prepared to withstand the cold.
But, despite the improvements, energy experts say the Texas electric grid is still vulnerable, especially when it comes to the supply of natural gas that fuels around 40% the state’s power generation.
Reasons the Texas grid is better prepared
Compared to a year ago, the Texas grid has 15% more power generation capacity.
As a result of new legislation, power plants are now required to be winterized. Many plants are also now able to use alternative fuels in cases where supplies of natural gas or other fuel is curtailed.
The Vistra power plant in Midlothian spent nearly $50 million in the past year to be better prepared.
Vistra Energy Co. CEO Curt Morgan told CBS 11 News in October, “We’re putting in the money to make sure these plants work … We can’t have people die. We can’t have people without power.”
Improved maintenance schedules have also ensured power generators are not offline for routine maintenance during peak demand times.
Earlier this month, state officials touted the new rules and legislative changes as reason the grid held up during the latest winter freeze in February.
Despite near record electricity demand during February’s arctic blast, most Texans’ power stayed on.
For most of the duration of the 2022 freeze, ERCOT was working with a power capacity cushion of 17,000 megawatts. That’s enough extra electricity to power 3 million homes.
READ MORE: Pair Of Labrador Retrievers Find Way Into North Texas Hospital ER Early Tuesday Morning“The Texas electric grid is more reliable and more resilient than it’s ever been,” Governor Greg Abbott said at a news conference during this year’s winter storm.
Reasons the Texas grid remains vulnerable
During last year’s winter storm, all types of power generation failed – wind, coal, nuclear – but none had a greater impact than natural gas. Gas-powered plants lost 13,000 megawatts of capacity; that’s like losing power to nearly 2.6 million homes.
The state’s oil and gas industry said since the 2021 storm, more gas facilities have been winterized and more have identified and communicated as “critical.”
“Without a question we are better prepared,” Todd Staples, the President of the Texas Oil and Gas Association told CBS 11 News during a tour of oil and gas facilities in the Permian Basin. “Significant improvements have been made in the system up and down. Vast improvements have been made in the communication side that raises us to a higher level of operational.”
Staples said the loss of electricity to oil and gas facilities during the February 2021 winter storm had a greater impact on the drop in natural gas supply than gas facilities freezing.
However, while more gas facilities have been identified as “critical,” the mapping of critical gas infrastructure – to make sure power is not cut off – has also not been completed. It’s expected to be done by 2023.
In a news released from January, the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates natural gas, said it has inspected 4,000 gas and oil sites in the past year and that 98% of those sites are now winterized.
Through an open records request, the CBS 11 I-Team obtain the records of those inspections. A review of the records by the I-Team and energy experts raises questions as about how the commission came up with 98%.
While lawmakers required power plants to be winterized by now, the oil and gas industry was given until next year to have its facilities prepared. The Texas Railroad Commission has not yet set the standards on winterization.
While many improvements have been made, consumer advocates remain skeptical that the state has taken enough action to ensure the grid will hold up during another severe winter storm.
“We should not get complacent, and we shouldn’t allow politicians to mislead us into thinking that they got us through this,” said Adrian Shelley, the Director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. “We don’t have the resilient, improved, winterized grid that we deserve right now. If we have another very serious storm, I think it’s still a cause for concern.”
Read More: One Year Later, Is The Texas Power Grid Fixed? – CBS Dallas / Fort Worth